A 40-foot-long blue whale which had washed ashore in Maharashtra’s Ratnagiri was released in the Arabian Sea after a nine-hour-long operation, wildlife officials have said, in what is being hailed as the biggest rescue mission in the state involving the world’s biggest animal.
The operation was carried out on Monday along the coast near Dapoli, about 215 km from Mumbai, with two shipping vessels towing the blue whale back into the sea.
The incident happened just a few days after the carcass of an equally big Bryde’s whale washed ashore at the Juhu beach in Mumbai, raising concerns among conservationists over the frequency of such incidents.
Last month too, at least 45 short-finned pilot whales had died after they washed ashore on a beach in Tamil Nadu’s Tuticorin district. Officials had managed to save 36 whales of the pod by towing them back to sea.
“While this might the first time that a blue whale has been successfully rescued from along any coast of India, it is matter of grave concern that these mammals are washing ashore with such frequency. There is an immediate requirement to find out why these instances are happening,” said N Vasudevan, chief conservator of forest, state mangrove cell.
Officials of the mangrove cell, members of the Gesellschaft fur Internationale Zusammenarbeit, a German organisation researching marine life in Ratnagiri, and activists of a local NGO Sahayadri Nisarg Mitra Chiploon were involved in the rescue mission.
“We saw that the whale had no injuries on its body but was having difficulty breathing. A marine biologist examined the whale and said that it had a stomach infection. Following this, he gave the whale nearly five injections and its activities immediately increased,” said Abhinay Kelaskar, project associate of the German group.